Trump experiences life through the windshield of a golf cart
Last week, at the Group of Seven meetings, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan together walked the streets of Taormina, Italy, to a photo op about 700 yards away.
Maybe this decision was not about being out of shape, or conserving his finite lifetime supply of energy, or snubbing his international counterparts. Maybe he was just homesick for his natural habitat: a golf course.
In a meeting with the Belgian prime minister on the same foreign trip, Trump reportedly offered an explanation. He holds negative views of Europe because it took so long to get his golf courses approved there.
“Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a license and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union,” a source told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
This presumably contrasts with Dubai, the site of the first Trump-branded property to open after he took office. Government officials and businessmen feted Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr. at a bizarrely lavish opening of the Trump International Golf Club Dubai in February.
Trump’s diplomacy is hardly the only part of his presidency shaped by his experiences with golf courses. His personnel decisions have been as well.
There’s White House adviser and social media director Dan Scavino, who began his working life as Trump’s awe-struck caddie, the Trumpian equivalent of starting out in the mailroom. This month, Scavino accompanied the president to meet the pope.
And speaking of staffing, Trump’s experience in Florida suggests the expression “draining the swamp” may mean something different to him than it does to the rest of us.
His West Palm Beach golf course sits on the edge of what once was part of the Everglades, but is now dry, developed land — that is, swampland that has quite literally been drained. To Trump, then, “swamp draining” could easily mean seizing an opportunity to make a buck. No wonder he has filled key administration posts with corporate lobbyists in need of ethics waivers, and others pushing to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
Think also of the kinds of interactions one has on a golf course, and Trump’s domestic policy priorities seem inevitable. Golfers — especially those in Trump’s orbit — tend be an older, whiter, richer crowd. If this is your social scene, tax cuts absolutely seem like the most important agenda item of our time.
So might rolling back an Environmental Protection Agency rule that could raise greenskeeping costs. That’s just par for the course. (Sorry.)
Trump has continued to play a lot of golf while in office; he’s visited his courses more than 20 times in four months. Which, you know, whatever. Who cares if the president plays golf? That pastime seems much less dangerous than some of his other hobbies (live-tweeting “Fox and Friends,” arm-wrestling with foreign leaders).
But his press office has been weirdly cagey about this penchant for hitting the links.
The White House has sometimes denied that the president was out golfing, even when photos proved otherwise. Maybe this is about shielding Trump from accusations of hypocrisy, as he frequently criticized his predecessor for spending too much time on the golf course.
“I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” Trump said at a campaign rally last year.
But maybe this deceptiveness is more about preventing the public from getting too much insight into the habits and strategies of a president who prizes his unpredictability.
Golf is played on an honor system, and Trump has frequently been accused of cheating — by raking the ball into the hole with his putter or moving the location of his ball, even taking a gimme on a chip shot. (Trump disputes this.) “If he got a hole in one, he’d write down zero,” one Palm Beacher told me recently, borrowing a line attributed to Bob Bruce.
As The Post reported in 2015 , Trump’s golf mates have often been reluctant to call him out on the funny business in the moment because, well, he’s showing everyone a good time.
And hey, if Trump’s venture into politics has proven anything, it’s this: So long as he’s sufficiently entertaining, the public will accept any lie he claims.